A sewer is where your toilet flushings, shower and dishwashing water go, and it's a pretty warm place. That heat can generate energy, meaning that a sewer system can take care of heating and cooling a whole city. The small city of Brainerd, Minnesota is trying it out. This could be the ultimate recylcing.
On NPR.com, Conrad Wilson quotes Scott Sjolund, the town's public utilities supervisor, as saying, "Everybody heats water up, and all that gets drained down the sewer, and that's potential energy that could be extracted. That's part of the equation." The bigger problem is "actually extracting it in an economical fashion."
The Brainerd-based company Hidden Fuels will circulate sewer water through a heat pump, extracting energy that can either heat or cool a building. A similar system was used during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Canada, but that setup didn't tap a sewer.
But what happens when a pipe leaks? You'll call for a plumber quickly! Wilson quotes Hidden Fuels' Peter Nelson as saying, "We're not dealing with clean fluids, we're dealing with contaminated fluids. And so that's really the challenge--to be able to operate efficiently in that contaminated environment."
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